Fun at 'The Fragrant Harbour' (6-9 August 2008)
28.08.2008 32 °C
True to everything we read before we left, Hong Kong is a city of contrasts in many ways...the colourful night markets, electronic shops and shabby high-rises of Kowloon compete with the sleek architecture of the buildings on Hong Kong Island (which we'd admired in Batman: The Dark Knight, only a week before!), from which the Symphony of Lights show is projected every evening. One minute we were enticed by the smell of dim sum, the next we were trying to escape the odour of dried fish wafting from shop fronts and stalls (particularly unattractive the morning after a 3.30am karaoke session!). There's the choice of eating a great meal for $57 (£4.00) in a local canteen, or dining in style at one of the many five star hotels (we chose the former!), and pizza, burgers and lasagne are as readily available as noodles and dumplings. Even when shopping, Zara and Mango sit comfortable alongside Versace and Chanel in the huge air-conditioned malls.
The one constant is the warmth and friendliness of the locals. From hotel staff to 'missy missy, rolex rolex' market stall holders (and yes, I did buy a rolex!) to taxi drivers, everyone is polite, smiling and chatty. We never once felt that language was a barrier...while we were crossing the street, or walking through the market, women would stop Ruth to chat about her english rose skin (there seems to be a huge michael jackson-esque obsession with skin whitening creams) and her tattoo!
While Hong Kong is westernised enough to make transport, reading menus, shopping and asking for directions incredibly easy, chinese culture and traditions are still present, and this is what makes it such a fascinating place. I wish we'd had more time to enjoy some of the more traditional experiences, but even after 2 days, we absolutely loved it and can't wait to go back!
Our highlights were:
Avenue of the Stars / Symphony of Lights (Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade)
Very exciting if you know your Hong Kong film legends, equally as exciting if you only know Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. As well as the Hollywood-style hand imprints, there are lots of other photo opportunities along the avenue, making this one of the funniest days out I've had in ages. This is also where you watch the light show from. Ruth started the crowd 'ooh-ing' and 'aah-ing' like a Sefton park firework show! Not to be missed...I wish we could have gone on both nights!
The Peak (Hong Kong Island's highest point)
What we expected: a scary, steep ascent on the Peak tram, magnificent views, one or two places to have some lunch.
What we got: a scary, steep ascent on the Peak tram, blinding mist, dozens of amazing restaurants, 2 shopping malls, Madame Tussauds and a virtual gaming zone!
Although we were pre-warned about the mist, we went up anyway and had a brilliant day out. When the mist cleared every now and then, the views were fantastic and we had a gorgeous lunch with cocktails at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
'Eat All You Want' Afternoon Tea at The Four Seasons Hotel
That pretty much says it all, but I must stress that it was SO delicious! The quality of the food was unbelievable. If we hadn't had to leave for the airport, I might still be there now eating tiny, sweet portions of devils food cake and Pear Belle-Hélène.
The Eaton Hotel (Nathan Road, Kowloon)
Our favourite thing about our hotel was access to the exclusive E-Club. We arrived a little too early for check in, but found scrabble and cakes to keep us occupied while we waited! As well as serving a huge complimentary breakfast every morning, tea, coffee, petits fours and macaroons were available all afternoon, with champagne and hors d'oeuvres (grilled tuna skewers, spring rolls) served every evening from 5-7pm. Unfortunately the rain was too heavy to use the open-top swimming pool, and we didn't have time to use the gym, but the rooms here were so affordable, and the beds so comfy that I will definitely be going back!
Other highlights included giant posters of Michael Owen advertising Tissoti watches, cheap cosmetics and perfume, an abundance of bizarre yellow-gold jewellery, a woman haggling furiously over a hideous donald duck t-shirt, finally finding bubble tea hours before leaving, the IFC mall rooftop bar, the Amigos Par Siempre divas in the karaoke bar, Ned Kelly's (an Australian bar where we sang along to a geordie playing dixieland jazz with a chinese band!), arriving just after the Typhoon and sticking exactly to our budget!
Go to Hong Kong if you can...it's amazing!